PNE defender closes in on World Cup

Bailey Wright (left) has been in World Cup qualifying action
Bailey Wright (left) has been in World Cup qualifying action
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Preston North End defender Bailey Wright is another step closer to going to the 2018 World Cup with Australia.

The 23-year-old played in the Socceroos’ 5-1 victory over Jordan – coached by Harry Redknapp – which saw them reach the next stage of qualifying.

Former Everton attacker Tim Cahill and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Massimo Luongo were among the goalscorers.

Australia topped their qualifying group in the Asia section with Tuesday’s comfortable win in Sydney.

The next step of qualifying starts in the autumn, with Australia among the favourites to reach Russia 2018.

Wright went to Brazil 2014 with the Aussies as an uncapped player but did not make an appearance.

He has since established himself as a regular in their defence and is now into double figures of caps.

The win against Jordan – the only side to have beaten them in qualification – saw Wright play the full 90 minutes.

He was close to scoring early in the second half and the only negative from his point of view was a late yellow card.

Last week, Wright played all of Australia’s 4-0 win against Tajikistan in Adelaide.

His next taste of international football will come much closer to home at the end of the season

England play Australia at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on May 27, that friendly forming part of the final build-up to Euro 2016 for Roy Hodgson’s men.

After that, Wright will head Down Under for Australia’s two friendlies against Greece in Sydney and Melbourne in early June.

Wright is due back in England on Wednesday and will get a brief rest before joining the Preston squad for training at Springfields on Thursday morning.

Providing he gets over his jet-leg and returns unscathed from national duty, Wright is set to face Blackburn at Ewood Park on Saturday lunchtime (12.30pm).

He has started PNE’s last 13 games and has made 33 appearances in total this term.

On the injury front, North End will assess the fitness of Paul Huntington and Alan Browne as the Rovers game gets nearer.

Both have been sidelined of late, Huntington with a calf strain and Browne because of a hip flexor injury.

Centre-half Huntington missed the games against Bolton and QPR, Browne missing those as well as the goalless draw with Brighton.

Before the international break, Preston boss Simon Grayson said he hoped to have them both back available.

Browne’s injury forced him to pull out of the Republic of Ireland Under-21s squad for two European Championship qualifiers.

The midfielder was also due to train with Martin O’Neill’s senior squad.

He had the injury assessed by Ireland’s medical staff, having been in Dublin to be presented with the ROI Under-21s international player of the year award, before returning to Deepdale to continue his recovery.

Joe Garner will return to the PNE squad at Blackburn, having completed a two-match suspension.

If Brown and Huntington recover, it will bolster Grayson’s selection options.